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Black Flag [Kobold Press] New Project Black Flag Web Page

Marc Radle

Project Black Flag logo B.jpg

Many have been asking what the overall design philosophy for Project Black Flag is.

Check out the new Project Black Flag page of the Kobold Press web site

Some relevant things from that page ...

What is Project Black Flag?
Project Black Flag is a code name for a larger series of efforts by Kobold Press to update, streamline, and publish a core fantasy RPG based on 5E Dungeons & Dragons SRD 5.1.

This includes the new Core Fantasy Roleplay rules released and available to all under an open, perpetual, and irrevocable license. It also includes two core books coming to Kickstarter in 2023.

Project Black Flag maintains core compatibility with the 5E products you already know and love, but with a Kobold spin. The new books aim to embrace 5E and expand upon it.

Our goal is to keep 5E products vibrant and available, both in print and on our VTT partner platforms. Project Black Flag is one step in making this a reality.

Why publish Core Fantasy Roleplay rules?
Some ask, why bother to publish 5E-centric core rules? The SRD 5.1 is out there in the Creative Commons, and it can be reprinted by anyone. What more could we possibly want or need? Glad you asked.

The Core Fantasy Roleplay system is built on the bones of 5E D&D, but there are three primary reasons to go further.

1. 5th Edition Core Rulebooks are going away. The 5E Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s Guide will not stay in print. New players must either use purely digital rulebooks (which works for some people) or find a new version.

We aim to keep the spirit of tabletop alive by producing beautiful, inviting versions of the core rulebooks for those who prefer to play face-to-face and those who don’t want to pay a monthly subscription to play.

We want to keep 5E vibrant and strong at the heart of a community of players and publishers. Your investment in 5E will be supported by Project Black Flag because it is compatible with the game you already know.

2. The SRD is incomplete. Anyone who has worked in publishing with the SRD knows that it is a fantastic baseline. We’ve been at it for 8 years—starting before 5E D&D even launched!

However, key elements are missing from the SRD. For example, the SRD includes only 1 feat and 1 cleric domain. A few monsters are conspicuously absent. Character generation has quirks and flaws. The power curve of challenge and encounter-building tools need improvement. Not to mention, it’s time to put a little dragonfire back in the combat engine.

Kobold Press has been tuning up 5E since the Tome of Beasts design work started in 2015, so we’ve got ideas to fill in the gaps.

These ideas provide fun new mechanical options, delightful weirdness, and frankly remarkable flavor that would never come from a Fortune 500 company. Instead, we stay close to the community with extensive playtests for our books to keep strange and eldritch in our fantasy gaming. And speaking of community…

3. The community is crucial. Project Black Flag is the greatest Open Design effort that Kobold Press has ever attempted. The vital part of Open Design has always been the community. Our existence is literally not possible without community: fans, content creators, other publishers, the old guard, freeform new kids, and everyone in between. We’re all in this together.

Design for Project Black Flag is led by Senior Game Designer Celeste Conowitch and a trusted team. But they do not work alone! We count on the tabletop fans who love D&D 5E to keep its spirit and substance alive far beyond any wizard’s ivory tower, part of the culture we forge.

And when it’s done, Project Black Flag will remain free from any single corporate enterprise—even ours!—in the commons and deep in the dungeons.

So Project Black Flag isn’t a new game?
In July 2022 the Kobold Press team started work on Project Black Flag. Then, In January 2023, as our biggest fears were coming true, Kobold Press knew that Project Black Flag’s timeline had to change. Quickly.

In our initial announcements, it was necessary for Project Black Flag to be a new Core Fantasy Roleplay system. However, once SRD 5.1 was released into Creative Commons, it was suddenly clear that we could build on the same foundation that so many people already know and love. As a bonus, Project Black Flag can streamline the new building while ensuring a thriving future for 5th Edition.

What do you mean by “streamline?”
We’re doing 5E, but changing stuff that needs to be changed. And we’re trying to do it in a way that keeps current 5E books and games useful. This is what we mean when we say the mystic words, “backward compatible.”

We will change things. When we do, we will include clear instructions to help you keep using existing 5E resources that might no longer be a perfect fit. And, we’ll try hard to do it in a way that won’t make players or GMs want to cry in frustration.

In general, Kobold Press wants to use more straightforward language, reduce complexity, and organize information in a more user-friendly way than the 5E core books currently do. This presentation style uses examples and standout advice to help onboard new players.

Here are the big-picture streamlining goals we are working toward:

Make the rules easier to read and understand.
  • Provide tools to reduce GM burden (encounter building tools, exploration encounter tools, social encounter tools, and more).
  • Rebalance a whole lotta existing elements (especially feats).
  • Provide opportunities for PCs to make meaningful choices at higher levels.
  • Make spellcasting cooler.
  • Keep combat interesting.

What is the Playtest timeline?
Our timeline for Project Black Flag is always updating based on public response and internal review, but here’s a look at the current timeline we have for playtesting from now until August 2023. This timeline might change as we confirm further dates and details.
  • February 13, 2023 – Playtest Packet # 1: Character Building
  • March 2023 – Playtest Packet #2 – Spells, Wizards, and Fighters
  • April 2023 – Monster Vault Preview
  • May 2023 – Kickstarter (2 Books)
  • June 2023 – Playtest Packet #4 – Clerics & Rogues
  • August 2023 – GenCon live community playtesting
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Marc Radle

Is (1) actually confirmed? I am assuming you are referring to WotC's books. Or is there a bit of a fine point there in that 5.0 is going away, to be replaced by 5.5?

Once WotC releases the new version of D&D (OneD&D, D&D 6.0 or whatever it ends up being called) they will not keep the 5E Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s Guide in print.

Once WotC releases the new version of D&D (OneD&D, D&D 6.0 or whatever it ends up being called) they will not keep the 5E Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s Guide in print.
Gotcha. Please understand that I wasn't trying to say you were being tricky or deceptive, just wanted clarification because I initially read it as, "No more 5e products at all, everything is digital now".


Why are you doing the Kickstarter before the play test for clerics and rogues?

I expect people would want to get a picture of where the core classes are going before backing.


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